Vigils in GR, BC for Orlando massacre victims

Orlando Nightclub Massacre, Apartment Lounge, Grand Rapids,
A vigil outside the Apartment Lounge in Grand Rapids honoring the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre. (June 12, 2016)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan’s oldest LGBTQ bar held a candlelight vigil Sunday night to honor the victims of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

About 300 people attended the vigil outside the Apartment Lounge in downtown Grand Rapids. Attendees were asked to bring a $2 donation to cover candles. Proceeds will go to the victims of the massacre and their families.

Authorities say 50 people were killed and 53 injured when a gunman opened fire at Pulse Orlando, a gay nightclub. It is the worst mass shooting in American history.

Orlando Nightclub Massacre, Apartment Lounge, Grand Rapids,
A vigil outside the Apartment Lounge in Grand Rapids honoring the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre. (June 12, 2016)

“It’s important that we show our solidarity, it’s really important that we support each other as a community and as a world,” Bob Johnson, the owner of the Apartment Lounge, told 24 Hour News 8 earlier in the evening. “…This is one of the worst tragedies that’s ever happened to the LGBT community, so it’s important that we show that together we can all stand together and we can make a difference. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”

Also Sunday evening, about 150 people attended a candlelight vigil at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on E. Van Buren Street in Battle Creek, sponsored by the Battle Creek LGBT organization and Calhoun County Equality.

This month is LGBT Pride Month. Detroit held its pride parade Sunday without any problems. The annual Grand Rapids Pride Festival is set to start on Thursday. Organizers say they are considering beefing up security, though they have not received any threats.

The Grand Rapids Pride Festival.

“It’s terrifying,” said Mike Hemmingsen, the president of the Grand Rapids Pride Center. “It’s a moment where you have to really think with all the advancements that we’ve made such as marriage equality and all of that, that these individuals are still at risk every day. That’s why events like pride celebration and the center itself are such a big resource to the community.”

Counselors were available to members of the public until 10 p.m. Sunday at the Pride Center.

>>Online: GoFundMe to benefit the victims and their families


The massacre shooter, identified as Omar Mateen, appears to have had “leanings” toward radical Islamic terrorism, authorities told the Associated Press. He reportedly called 911 shortly before the attack and referenced the Islamic State militant group. Mateen’s father told NBC News that the attack had nothing to do with religion.

The head of a West Michigan mosque on Sunday condemned the shooting, issuing this statement to 24 Hour News 8:

“This is the act of a very evil minded person who is not on the right path who has been derailed. It is an act of an evil person guided by Satan. We grieve, We are not to kill anyone, a human being is not allowed to kill anyone else the – story of Cain and Abel is very clear in the Quran, even life of our own,”  stated Dr. Sharif Sahibzada, the imam of the Mosque of Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss released this statement on the violence:

“I am incredibly saddened by this senseless act of violence. There is no place in our society for hatred of any kind. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones. On behalf of the entire Grand Rapids community, I send my deepest condolences to the city of Orlando and all those impacted by this tragedy. May they find peace in the support of our community and knowing they are not alone in their grief.”

Bishop Paul Bradley of the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo released this statement:

“The beauty and calm of this June Sunday morning was disrupted by the early morning news about the horrific mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. We are shocked and deeply saddened by the enormity of this act of terrorism. It is now estimated that 50 people have been killed and more than that number have been critically wounded in what is being termed the worst act of mass shooting in the history of our country and the worst act of terrorism, second only to the “9-11” events on September 11, 2001.

“In the name of the entire Church in the Diocese of Kalamazoo, I extend our deepest sympathies to the families of those who have been killed, and our prayers for those who are fighting for their lives, even as we ask God’s comfort and consolation to the families of all those who have been terrorized.

“I also invite every member of our Catholic community, along with all the wonderful people of good will in our wider community, even as we are struggling with the sadness of our own recent tragic circumstances, to pray for an end of violence, hatred and intolerance in our society. With God’s grace and guidance, may we choose to live together in harmony and peace.”

Michigan Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo, released this statement referencing his bill that would create a public threat alert system in the event of shootings like the one in Orlando or in Kalamazoo in February:

“This type of senseless violence can not be tolerated within our communities across the nation. The bill I have been working on in the Michigan Legislature, House Bill 5442, has drawn support from both sides of the aisle and will implement a public threat alert system to notify people locally of mass shootings and other acts of terrorism.

“My sincerest, heartfelt condolences go out to the victims of the Orlando massacre and their families in this time of need. My prayers are with all those injured, those lives lost and all their loved ones affected.

“Ensuring the safety of our citizens is a priority and we must enact laws that will help save lives and keep people aware of their surroundings so they can protect themselves and loved ones.

“Information is power and the quicker we know what is going on around us the quicker we can respond and take caution to save lives. More lives do not need to be lost to prove that we, as a society, ought to be more engaged to effectively utilize our technological capabilities to our advantage.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette released this statement:

“My wife Cynthia and I, and indeed people across Michigan and America, extend our prayers to families who have lost loved ones in this brutal shooting in Orlando. At this moment, the tragic shootings in Orlando appear to be an act of domestic terrorism. Law enforcement officials are working diligently to obtain evidence of what caused this act of violence.”


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